Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mystery, Suspense and POV

What I'm reading: Almost Like Being in Love, by Christina Dodd
Thanks to Rosemary Harris for being my guest yesterday. My editor received my revised manuscript and is working on it. With that off my plate, I'd planned on jumping back into my new WIP, but the hubster and I went all the way down the mountain and spent copious amounts of money on new everythings for the house.

Eventually, they assure us, they'll actually be delivered and then our contractor will start installing stuff. Today it's supposed to be a water softening system, so that our new appliances won't get all gunked up with mineral deposits. And, living up here, one learns to consolidate trips, so we made at least half a dozen stops (ok, one was lunch) trying to take care of everything in one day. We did, but it was a LONG day.

On another front: I've just hooked up with a group of other Five Star Expressions authors in a new blogging venture. It's still very loosely organized, but today's my day to post there. Some of you might be aware that I hold job interviews for my characters, but if you haven't read what transpired when Frankie Castor auditioned for the female lead in WHEN DANGER CALLS, why don't you pop over to Author Expressions. You know the drill. I'll be waiting.

Right now, we blog on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I'd love to see some of you there.

Given my day yesterday, and that I'm also somewhere else today, I've gone through my archives and decided to share one of the very first posts I made here at Terry's Place, back in August of 2006. I thought it fitting, because the manuscript I'm working on is the first one where I've been tempted to include a villain's POV. Here it is:

I've decided that I really don't want to write classic suspense, but in the romance genre, everything is lumped under the "romantic suspense" sub-genre. I don't really like to read true suspense, although the market is full of it. I'm sure there are readers out there who like a good mystery, with romance intertwined, but agents and editors seem to be leaning strongly toward the "suspense is what's selling" approach. But isn't that one of those Catch-22's? People buy it because it's what's out there, and because there aren't a lot of other choices, it continues to sell.

What's the difference? A mystery is a puzzle; the reader is usually two steps behind the protagonist, or at least right with him. In a suspense, the reader is two steps ahead. They're definitely closely intertwined—I'd call them fraternal twins. They often share elements in the same work. And my personal definition of a thriller is a suspense of global proportions – like Christopher Whitcomb's Black and White.

When I read, I don't think it makes it more exciting to see the villain's POV and what he's doing. That's suspense, where you know the bomb is under the table. It's a well-respected genre, don't get me wrong. I just happen to prefer to discover things along with my hero and heroine. Knowing what's around the corner, or behind the tree, makes me want to skip ahead. I feel like it's 'cheating' to know more than the main characters. And I'm often guilty of skimming the villain POV scenes, especially when it's that mysterious "he." I'm more likely to accept that third POV if I don't know it's the villain. Surprise me. Make me go back and see the signs the good author has carefully sprinkled throughout the book. Let me hit myself upside the head and say, "Why didn't I see that one coming?"

I guess it's because my first exposure to the genre was Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Speckled Band. I was hooked, and never able to love Hitchcock's approach the same way. Don't get me wrong – I'm not dissing the man's genius. It's just not on my "forget the house, who needs to cook? drop everything and spend the day in the chair" to do list.

I write, in the romance convention, from the POV of the hero and heroine, but not the villain. As a matter of fact, in some books, the villain isn't a person, but an organization or conspiracy. There are 'bad guys' to be sure, but nobody sees them until the hero and/or heroine do. Anyone else out there like more of a straight mystery?

Meanwhile, I'm holding fast to my two POV approach, but trying to instill more elements of suspense within my mystery.

And now for a confession. I'm delighted that fellow bloggers have found Terry's Place of sufficient interest to pass along awards. However, these announcements usually come in the comment thread, which send me to the blog where the award was given, and I've been totally lax about saving or bookmarking these posts. There are often 'rules' about these awards, often entailing passing them on to other bloggers, and I tell myself I'll make my list...later. I do want to thank Patricia Stoltey for the Sunshine Award.

And whoever gave me the "Sweet" blog award, thanks to you as well. I know there have been more. Maybe I need to create a "bible" for tracking these awards. I'm always so surprised that someone passes one along that I think I'll never forget it. Please, please, please forgive me!


Carol Kilgore said...

I know what you're going through with your new house. Have fun! Now I'm off to check your new blog adventure.

Terry Odell said...

Carol - thanks for the empathy. Things are starting to happen, which is good, despite the ensuing chaos.

Mason Canyon said...

Small towns have their charm, but there are a few problems too. The new blogging adventure sounds interesting.

Thoughts in Progress

Terry Odell said...

Mason - everything has its pluses and minuses, I think. It's finding the balance you can live with.

Debra St. John said...

Aside from the money involved, I always love those trips out and about to spruce up the house. How fun to have a new one to work with!

Terry Stonecrop said...

It sounds as if things are moving along nicely with your house.

I like both mystery and suspense.

I'm going to check out your new blog.

Terry Odell said...

Things are moving, yes. Slowly. With glitches, but what's new about that!

Jemi Fraser said...

Sounds like an exhausting day shopping and running around. I'm not a shopper and I'm not a fan of days like that! I bet you're glad that's done!